Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

China’s hidden water footprint

07.07.2014

China’s richest provinces have an outsized environmental impact on the country’s water-scarce regions, according to new research from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the University of Maryland.

Many developed regions in China are not only drawing from their own water resources but also contributing to water depletion in other water-scarce regions of the country through imports of food and other water-intensive goods, according to the new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. This has environmental impacts and potential future impacts on water availability for the entire country. 

The new study used the concept of “virtual water,” an economic concept used to track water flows through trade, to track how water is traded through agricultural products and other goods that require water to produce. But while previous studies of water flows had treated all water equally, the new study accounts for water scarcity.

“When goods and services are exchanged, so is virtual water,” explains IIASA and University of Maryland researcher Laixiang Sun, a study co-author. “For example, it takes about 1,600 cubic meters of actual water to produce one metric ton of wheat. When a country or region imports a ton of wheat instead of producing it domestically, it saves most of that.”

In China, water resources are distributed unevenly, with ample water in the wealthier southern region, and scarce water in most northern provinces. The study shows that trade between these water-scarce regions tends to draw more sharply on water resources in the less developed, poorer regions. For example, the provinces of Shanghai, Shandong, Beijing, and Tianjin import large amounts of virtual water at the expense of less-developed provinces such as Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei.

“Importing water-intensive goods from one water-scarce region to another doesn’t solve the problem of water scarcity—it just shifts the pressure to other regions,” says co-author Klaus Hubacek, a researcher at the University of Maryland and an alumnus of the IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program.

The study also examined the impact of international exports on water resources, showing that production of international exports in China’s top exporting regions also draws on water resources in water-scarce northern provinces.

Sun adds, “With the fast growth of China’s economy, and increasing urbanization, this trend is likely to continue in the next few decades.”

Recognizing the problem of water scarcity, China has launched a multi-billion dollar water transfer project to divert water from the South to the North. But the authors suggest that replacing imports from the North with goods produced in the South could be a more efficient solution to the problem.

The researchers say that their new study lays the groundwork for smarter water resource management. Says Sun, “This is the first study that incorporates water consumption, water scarcity, and ecosystem impacts into an analysis that conveys the pressures on water resources. Using virtual water as a policy tool only makes sense if you take water scarcity into account.”

Reference
Feng, Kuishuang, Klaus Hubacek, Stephan Pfister, Yang Yu, Laixiang Sun. 2014. “Virtual Scarce Water in China.” Environmental Science and Technology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es500502q.

For more information contact:

Laixiang Sun
IIASA Senior Research Scholar
Water Program
+43(0) 2236 807 543
sun@iiasa.ac.at
Laixiang Sun lsun123@umd.edu

Klaus Hubacek
University of Maryland
+1 301-405-4567
hubacek@umd.edu

Katherine Leitzell
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316
leitzell@iiasa.ac.at

Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Environmental IIASA Urbanization resources water resources

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>